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5 Really Helpful Tips for Taking Great Family Photos

Today’s guest post comes from Virginia-based photographer Rebecca Danzenbaker.

There are lots of tips flying around out there on taking good family photos, but I wanted to give you some gems that you might not stumble across as often.

1. Locations, locations, locations (yes, plural)

When scouting out a spot for family photos, be sure there’s a lot of variety. Though family photos at the beach sound great, having the ocean in the background for every single image becomes monotonous both during the session and when looking through the photos later. So, if you are at the beach, go toward the pier, an inlet or a grassy hill to vary the scenery.

I’m blessed to live in a neighborhood that has a farm, tons of conservancy land with wildflower fields, tree-lined paths, and some amazing rustic buildings and fences. Not only does the variety of locations bring diversity to the photos, everyone also gets a nice break while walking from place to place.

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

2. Relax

Think of how much stress everyone was under trying to look nice (and stay that way) to get to this session. I have so many families who arrive 10-20 minutes late because, let’s face it, getting young children and yourselves beautiful and into the car at a specific time just isn’t realistic.

Instead of telling people to smile, where you get the forced “cheese” grin and no light in the eyes, I tell people to take a deep breath and relax. I would much rather have a “no-smile” photo, than one with strained lips, eyes, and foreheads. After everyone is relaxed, and I get a few great shots that way, I inevitably do something to make a fool of myself (like a goofy dance celebrating the photo we just took), which brings out the real smiles. The camera comes back up to my face just then.

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

3. Watch out for that crazy sun

Yes, you can get great photos in the middle of the day! Here’s how: Find a location with bushes, trees or anything else dark in the background. Place your subject with their back to the sun anywhere from 10-100 feet in front of the background, but in the sunlight, not the shadow. The sun will cast a gorgeous halo all around them and your dark background will ensure they remain defined by that light.

Here’s an example, two hours before sunset, where I was shooting with the sun to my right instead of behind them:

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

But then I moved around so that the sun was behind them:

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

So much better, right?! There’s nice even light on their faces and a glow all around them. If you shoot like this close to sunset, you’ll also get some really pretty lens flare, but beware of your camera’s auto-focus acting up when you direct it toward the sun. Just be patient, and make some small adjustments in your position. It will come around.

4. Connect everyone together

Have mom lean on dad’s shoulder and daughter take mom’s hand. Let the little guy hug dad’s leg or sit on his lap. Make sure everyone looks included and connected. Heads should tilt slightly toward one another.

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

5. Remember why you’re there

When you do a family session, don’t forget the main reason why you’re taking the photos – to show the love and relationships between everyone in the family. Though a family is one unit, it is also made up individuals who each have a unique relationship with the other people there. Try pairing up people for photos to capture the bond between the two of them. How great would it be to have a photo of just you and your dad, no other siblings or people in it? That is priceless.

rebecca danzenbaker family photographer

Watch this family’s slideshow for even more inspiration!

Slideshow made in ProShow Web.

Rebecca Danzenbaker is a professional newborn, family and maternity photographer in Northern Virginia. She’s also really fun to work with! 🙂 You should think about calling her for your next session!
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Amanda works in Photodex's marketing department and heads up the company's pr and events efforts. She loves photography, living in Austin and making slideshows.